Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery

The RLE Procedure

Refractive lens exchange is a surgery normally done with the use of a local anesthesia and can be over with, in just 15 minutes. However, it can only be done on one eye at a time and most eye surgeons will wait at least 2 weeks before they consider treating the other eye.

The refractive lens exchange procedure is essentially the same operation just like in the removal of cataract because your natural lens will also be replaced with a lens implant. The only difference with cataract surgery and Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure is that during this surgery your own natural lens that is being removed is cloudy. A cataract is merely a clouding of your normally transparent natural lens.

During Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure

The power of the lens implant is calculated using ultrasound. The 2 main measurements that are required are the curvature of your cornea and the length of your eye (axial length). This process is called biometry and results in a lens being made that will eliminate your prescription.

Dilation drops to make your pupil bigger and anesthetic drops will be used in your eye.

A small incision is made in your cornea; this can be as small as 2-3 mm. Through this incision the handheld phacoemulsification instrument is inserted and with the use of ultrasound your natural lens will be broken up so that it can be sucked out easily. Your natural lens sits inside a capsule and care is taken when removing your lens so as not to damage this capsule.

As soon as the entire old lens has been removed, the IOL is placed through the incision and placed into the lens capsule. The best place for the new lens is exactly where the old lens came from, like the lens capsule. The lens implant is soft and pliable and therefore can be folded up and fitted through the tiny incision. Once inside the lens capsule it unfolds into the correct position to correct your vision.

The main goal of RLE surgery is similar to LASIK, to help give a better vision to a patient than they would have without surgery.

Who can have RLE?

Not all patients with vision problems are recommended to undergo refractive lens exchange procedure. The most common patients are:

  • older people
  • longsighted people

RLE Ideal For Older Patients

Older patients are among the most commonly being advised to have RLE. The age groups between 40 and up are common victims of cataracts that destroy the lenses of the eyes.

The benefit of RLE is that it can be effectively done before cataracts become so severe that it will require the traditional surgery procedure. The artificial lens will help the patient see correctly without the need for glasses or contacts.

The down for RLE is that medical insurance companies are not willing to pay for RLE like they do for cataract removal.

RLE For Farsighted People

For patients who have severe long-sightedness would typically need LASIK surgery. But in some cases like when the condition is not so severe, RLE may still correct the problems.
If you are considering RLE, it is best if you can discuss the pros and cons of the procedure with your doctor. You have to weigh your options as well as the other alternatives available to you.